Answers, escape, and destruction
This is the second part of a series of posts reflecting on my experiences with my career as a programmer, anxiety, depression, drugs, and learning to live with bipolar type 2. The first part covers the beginnings and warning signs.
Throughout University the cycle of obsessive projects and depression continued. It was less destructive than before because I was able to focus my energy on my assignments. Even that feeling of emptiness was somewhat subdued. I had so much time on my hands that I could get away with doing the bare minimum without too much trouble.
Still, I found myself wondering what the point of all this was. I had graduated high school, got into the University course I wanted, but still wasn’t satisfied. I had a brief stint getting to know a girl that introduced me to her church. Previously I had been strongly atheist, but the thought that maybe there was a greater meaning to life was attractive. I read large portions of the bible, attended bible study group, and asked the pastor countless questions.
This stage didn’t last long. I had a lot of trouble consolidating the extreme christian views, specifically on the role of women in society and the duality of the god portrayed in the old and new testament. Hearing the women in the bible study group casually accept the notion that men were meant to be intellectually superior was shocking. There was a huge amount of hypocrisy in the pastors beliefs and actions regarding pornography. I came from a strongly agnostic family, and while the meditation components of prayer was reassuring, I left the church because I couldn’t ignore my own logic and accept their rhetoric.
I was lucky enough to get an essentially free ride through University through a scholarship involving a year of internship at 2 different companies. I cruised through the course, filling my plentiful time with drinking and my new favourite past time; cannabis.
My casual use of this drug during the last few years of university and first six months of my first full time job was blissful. For the first time I could feel completely free of the anxiety and depression that had slowly begun to intensify.
I had found a great balance. I could work hard in a small startup, doing the kind of work I had dreamt of in high school. I got paid well, and I could perform under pressure. Then once or twice a week I could get sweet relief.
My interest in drugs started here. Cannabis wasn’t the scary schizophrenia inducing substance that I had been led to believe. I encouraged my friendship group to experiment with mushrooms, I found the psychedelic experience awe inspiring. Cannabis seemed so tame in comparison.
I quickly found out the duality of psychedelics; during one particular trip I experienced a horrifying state of ego death. My anxiety was amplified in this experience, I wasn’t ready for the feeling of losing the idea of “self”. I took a long break from psychedelics after this. After a couple months I had processed the experience. I felt that if I could go through something so terrible, I could handle anything.
After a year of full time work I started to get a little restless. I needed more. That feeling of emptiness was getting stronger. I moved out of home to live with my best friend’s girlfriend (another complicated story, nothing romantic here). Free of my parents rules and supervision things started to get out of control.
At this point I had become adept at finding access to cannabis. With plenty of disposable income and increased passion for the green I was smoking more than ever. I fell into a concrete routine:
- Get to work early
- Work hard
- Leave early
- Smoke a joint as soon as I get home
The weekends were reserved for catching up with friends and smoking more weed.
After a few months of this the emptiness started coming back. I impulsively bought a motorcycle, adding some excitement to my complacent lifestyle. I was becoming aware that all my grand plans for my career and were slowly slipping away. 23 years old, working on the same dead end project at the same startup with no opportunities in sight. I knew more about what was going on in my dealer’s life than my own brother’s.
The emptiness gave way to desperation. I just kept adding more cannabis, went faster on the motorcycle, lost interest in those projects I used to do. I confessed to a friend that I couldn’t see me making it past 27.
The thought of being stuck in the same job scared me more than the destructive lifestyle I got myself into. I took a month of work, only to spend a my time sitting at my desk working on another over-scoped idea. My cannabis usage was at an all time high.
Then I just snapped. In 3 weeks I totalled my motorcycle, quit my job, and took another up in Sydney. I told my best friend of 10 years that I’d be leaving in the next couple weeks.
I got on a plane headed for Sydney and moved into a studio apartment. This time I’ll be happy, I thought to myself.